December 8, 2010

'The Silent Evolution': Life-saving Art

In the waters between Cancún and Isla Mujeres, there is a remarkable sight. 400 life-sized statues of real people gaze up from the seabed. Their presense forms an artificial coral reef, which will help preserve the marine eco-system. Two days ago, it was also the setting for a campaign to save human beings.

The Silent Evolution

When we last highlighted the work of Jason de Caires Taylor, 'The Silent Evolution' was merely concept art. This hauntingly beautiful seabed scene is now a reality. Just two weeks ago, it was installed in the Manchones Reef, in the National Marine Park of Cancún, Isla Mujeres and Pinta Nisuc. Snorkellers, scuba divers and glass-boated boats have already been flocking to the site. At a depth of between 4-7 meters (13-23ft), it is easily viewed through the pristine waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Each one of the 400 life-sized sculptures represent a real person walking around in the world above. They range from an 85 year old nun to a three year old boy named Santiago. On his website, the artist paid tribute to 'all the models who patiently stood in their underwear covered in vaseline and plaster for over an hour, thus requiring trust and bravery'.

As with all of Jason de Caires Taylor's underwater sculptures, 'The Silent Evolution' has an important job to do. Erosion and bleaching of the world's coral reefs mean that much of the plants and creatures that rely on on them are now endangered. These statues have been especially created to act as substitute reefs. While blandly white at the moment, they will literally evolve into a vibrant and ever-changing display of color.

The installation has already attracted bright, tropical fish into its sheltering nooks. Within just a few weeks, the coral plantlife will start growing across its surfaces. The artist views the creation and placing of the statues as merely the beginning, 'the second phase is dependant on nature’s artists of the sea, to nurture, evolve and apply the patina of life.' Once the coral life has really taken hold, then each new visit to the site will reveal whole new wonders. This is living, breathing, thriving art.

The Silent Evolution and Greenpeace

'The Silent Evolution' hit doubly hit the headlines this week. As the final pieces were being lowered into place, delegates from the UN Climate Change Conference were gathering in nearby Cancún. Activists from Greenpeace, TckTckTck and wanted to get their message heard by them. The slogan was stark, 'Real people can't live underwater'. It was to press home the threat posed by rising sea levels. In a world of glaciers melting under rising temperatures, those living in low lying coastal areas, across the world, are in danger of losing their homes and livelihoods.

The protesters donned ordinary, every-day clothing, in order to free dive down to the statues. They had to hold their breath for up to a minute, so that their photographs and video footage could be taken. The human-like sculptures were created to live underwater. Human beings are not.

All of this was done with Jason de Caires Taylor's permission. In fact, he was there. Who better than the artist to take the photographs? :D

The Silent Evolution and Greenpeace

For more images, check out the slideshow here.

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